An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Jiu Wudaishi 舊五代史

Jul 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Jiu Wudaishi 舊五代史 "Old history of the Five Dynasties", with a length of 150 juan, is the first official dynastic history (zhengshi 正史) of the Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960). Each of these was seen as a separate unit (similar to the Sanguozhi 三國志 that is divided into the three parts Weizhi 魏志, Wuzhi 吳志 and Shuzhi 蜀志), and the whole unit as a factual collection of five separate texts. It was therefore originally called Liang-Tang-Jin-Han-Zhou shu 梁唐晉漢周書 "Book of the (Later) Liang, (Later) Tang,...".

It was compiled on order of Emperor Taizu 宋太祖 (r. 960–975) of the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279) by Lu Duoxun 盧多遜 (934–985), Hu Meng 扈蒙 (915–986, courtesy name Riyong 日用), Zhang Dan 張澹 (919–974, courtesy name Chengwen 成文), Li Mu 李穆, and Li Fang 李昉 (925–996, courtesy name Mingyuan 明遠).

To avoid confusion with a history of the Five Dynasties published by Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 (1007–1072) in 1207 (a book with the original title Wudai shiji 五代史記) the Liang-Tang-Jin-Han-Zhou shu was renamed , and Ouyang Xiu's book began circulating with the title Xin Wudaishi 新五代史 "New history of the Five Dynasties".

The main part of the Jiu Wudaishi can thus be divided into five parts, each presenting the imperial annals-biographies (benji 本紀) of the Five Dynasties (1-10, 25-48, 75-85, 99-103, 110-120), followed by collective biographies of the imperial consorts (11, 49, 86, 104, 121), the imperial houses (12, 50-51, 87, 105, 122), and normal biographies (liezhuan 列傳).

The dynasties ruling over southern China (the so-called Ten States 十國, 902~979) were incorporated in a special kind of biography, the "biographies of usurpers" (134-136 Zanwei liezhuan 僭偽列傳). Chapters 132-133 include the biographies of "hereditary houses" (Shixi liezhuan 世襲列傳) of de-facto indepentently ruling military commissioners that did not proclaim themselves emperors. The last two chapters of the biographies (137-138) report on foreign countries and peoples.

The treatises in the Jiu Wudaishi cover the themes astronomy (139 Tianwen zhi 天文志), calendar (140 Li zhi 曆志), the Five Agents (141 Wuxing zhi 五行志), state rituals (142-143 Li zhi 禮志), court music (144-145 Yue zhi 樂志), food and commodities (146 Shihuo zhi 食貨志), penal law (147 Xingfa zhi 刑法志), selection and appointment of officials (148 Xuanju zhi 選舉志; this is the first instance that such a treatise was written, see state examinations), state offices (149 Zhiguan zhi 職官志), and administrative geography (150 Junxian zhi 郡縣志).

The main source for the compilation of the "Old history" were the "veritable records" (shilu 實錄) of the particular dynasties and states, but also precursors like Fan Zhi's 范質 book Wudai tonglu 五代通錄 "Comprehensive records of the Five Dynasties" (lost). After the publication of Ouyang Xiu's "New history", the Jiu Wudaishi was almost forgotten and only "rediscovered" and supplemented by notes and a critical apparatus during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911). The received text is therefore not identical to the original, but consists of fragments that had to be puzzled together from quotations in other books. Nonetheless this reconstructed version of the Jiu Wudaishi still preserves a considerable amount of source material that can be used as a supplement to the much shorter Xin Wudaishi.

Liu Naihe 劉乃和 (1992). "Jiu Wudaishi 舊五代史", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 500.